Oklahoma high school football: COVID wreaking havoc on schedules
The coronavirus pandemic is starting to show its teeth in Oklahoma high school football.
District play began this week for most teams, meaning the games became more important with playoff seeding on the line. Yet numerous teams across the Oklahoma City metro found out their seasons are being halted right as the biggest games are getting underway.
Oklahoma City Public Schools announced Friday it was suspending all athletics competitions indefinitely beginning Monday. Putnam City Public Schools did the same. Millwood followed suit.
Within a period of about an hour, 11 Oklahoma City-area high schools were suddenly in limbo wondering whether they would even be able to play again this season.
Putnam City coach Carter Whitson and Putnam North coach Ryan Laverty learned of the suspension of play about two hours before their games Friday. Suddenly, the games they were preparing to take the field for might be their last for a while.
Putnam City’s district administration sent an email informing coaches of the change.
OKCPS and PCPS decided to suspend activities because Oklahoma County's COVID Alert Level had risen to Orange Level 2, the second-highest level on the scale.
In OKCPS’ case, superintendent Sean McDaniel said there would be an update Friday, but according to the letter, the district won't transition back to practicing and playing until the lower alert level has been maintained two consecutive weeks. Oklahoma County will have to be at Orange Level 1 or lower for two consecutive weeks for the district to resume athletics.
Teams who are slated to face any of the OKCPS, PCPS or Millwood football teams can try to reschedule games later in the season or try to schedule nondistrict games against other opponents.
That means, at the earliest, football teams in the district could return by Week 7.
It also means that with state championships in volleyball and fastpitch in the next two weeks, those athletes’ seasons are likely finished.
The decision by the three districts have been met with some support and some backlash. Most of Putnam City’s fall sport athletes and coaches are planning to protest the district’s decision at 3:45 p.m. Monday at the administration building. Laverty and Whitson posted a photo on Twitter saying, “Three schools, One voice, standing together to fight for what’s right.”
Other athletes at Putnam City’s high schools also tweeted support of allowing teams to play.
If the infections continue to rise, this could be the first domino to fall to shut down all high school athletics, like what happened in the spring. If more games and districts are forced to stop playing, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association will have to consider halting sports.
Despite those who disagree with suspension of play, coronavirus remains an issue. Case numbers are rising across the state. But athletes and coaches of these teams are fighting to continue playing.